Category Archives: Uncategorized

Eating better for less

I eat a lot of food. I try to eat pretty well in terms of food selection and quality but it can be pretty expensive to do so. I thought I’d share a few simple strategies I use to eat well without spending a fortune!

1. Shop in advance after planning your meals

Each week, we try to sit down on a sat or sun and spend 10 mins planning the week aheads evening meal. From that, we look at the ingredients that we already have, and list everything else that is needed. Generally, herbs, spices, sauces and other things last a while and you don’t need to buy all that regularly. Then, with the list in hand, the supermarket gets hit! Sticking to the list, and looking out special offers will save you time and money.

2. Bulk buy protein

Most supermarkets have multibuys on meat and fish. These are typically going to be prominent in your diet, so take advantage of the offers! Once you buy, separate the meat and fish in to portions and freeze, taking them out the night before you plan to use them to defrost in plenty of time. Using the Precision Nutrition portion guides, it’s a simple enough task to cut the meat and fish into the correct size portions.

3. Buy veggies and prep and freeze

If you are anything like me, you probably have to occasionally throw out the odd veggie or 2! Bought with the best of intentions, and left at the back of the salad drawer…

Portioning up the veggies you need for smoothies, stirfrys and meals or snacks, then freezing them, helps them last longer, and stops you from having to pop into the supermarket every other day, and if you are like me, coming out with the odd packet of oreos…

4. Bulk with beans, more protein, better carbs, more fibre

Beans, beans, are good for you heart, the more you eat, the more you…get more protein and fibre into your diet!  Fibre plays an important role in digestion and most people eating a typical western diet don’t get nearly enough each day.

Guys, we need to get around 40-50g per day, ladies, you need around 30-35g per day. Half a can of mixed beans in a chilli or salad will give you around 8-10g and putting you well on your way to the total. It’ll also give you about the same amount of protein and some good quality carbs.

5. Protein supplements

Last on the list because you should really be getting your nutrition from whole foods, but sometimes, a quick protein shake can help top up your protein levels. A good protein supplement doesn’t have to cost the Earth, and it doesn’t need to be filled out with all kinds of extras. Remember, it’s called a supplement because it’s there to supplement your diet, not act as a replacement for actual food!

Hope these tips help!

Stay healthy

Dave

 

 

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Coaching cues for improving your awesome!

When it comes to getting technique right, remembering some good cues or ……… to get you into the right position and perform the movements well are hugely useful. Here are 5 of the ones I use most:

 

  • Shoulders down. Simple, but it’s amazing how many times I say it through the day. Most types of rowing movement result in a slight, or not so slight, shrugging movement as the pulling movement is performed. Since most people in the environment I work in tend to be very upper trap dominant, the default setting is shoulders to the ears as the body tries to get into as strong a position as it can and cheat the way to a completed rep.

Usually a simple reminder will get the shoulder back into a better position, occasionally a gentle tap on the shoulders is                 needed…

A simple trick on seated rowing options is to lean your torso forward about 10 degrees from vertical and the shrug can now          no longer help out.

  • Hips through. Top of the squat, regardless of the variation, the top of the deadlift, swing or romanian deadlift, the swap over between legs on a lunge variation all require you to find the “top” position before going into the next rep. Particularly with newer clients, they stop short of the top.  It’s almost as if it’s a time saving its a time saving device since they’re gonna be heading down into the next rep anyways, why go all the way up just to come down again?

Your hips are designed to extend fully, so fully extend them, imagine that you are standing up tall, no weight in your              hands, now squeeze your glutes, and abs, and feel your hips tilt slightly backwards as they roll under your ribs. That is your           “top” position. Find it at the top of each rep, squeeze your glutes and don’t stop short.

  •  Eyes up, chest up. This is particularly useful during farmer carry variations. People tend to look down at the floor a few feet ahead of them, inevitably the chest follows the eyes lead dropping in and resulting in the shoulders rounding and good posture is lost. Keep your eyes up,  and you’ll maintain good posture for longer.

Hope these help you find better position in some of your key exercises and get the best out of them!

Stay strong

Dave

Random thoughts…

I thought this week I’d post some thoughts that have been running around my brain for the last little while…

  • While weight training gives you a whole host of benefits, including but not limited to, feeling stronger and more confident, improved physical and mental health and a 612% increase in awesome, it is diet that really drives fat loss and body composition changes.
  • The best diet is whatever allows you to consistently follow it. This is why fad diets work and then fail you. Eat 4 lettuce leaves, and a pint of lukewarm lemon water 3 times a day, then eat a normal meal every other day, and just watch the weight fall off you… maintainable for maybe a week if you really really try, but in the long term, impossible. Old habits rush back and you gain whatever you lost with interest.
  • Good nutrition should improve energy levels, mood, performance and body composition. Base your meals around a lean protein source (chicken, fish, turkey etc) a couple of vegetables, and a starchy carb such as sweet potato, rice or wholemeal pasta. Follow this guide for serving sizes and adjust according to results.
  • Being injured sucks, but it gives you an opportunity to rethink training and work on weaknesses while you recover. Theres (almost) always a work around to still give you a training effect.
  • Progress in many things isn’t a direct route. You’ll make rapid steps forward, stall for an eternity, then suddenly rush forward again. It’s working through the stalling points that will give you the “sudden” leaps forward.
  • From doing client reviews i’ve noticed that when a client can do a 1.5x bodyweight deadlift and a 1.25x bw squat and 3+ pullups, body comp is no longer an issue. Get stronger, it fixes a lot of issues
  • Setting grand outcome goals is great, but setting smaller step by step process goals is what gets you there. Breaking down the big goals into bitesized chunks that require you to take action and gradually add a new chunk every week or 2 will result in 26 -52 new positive steps in the course of a year. You’ll be amazed at what you can get done.
  • From a conditioning standpoint, a short, simple circuit beats long steady state cardio every time. Try this and tell me about your heart rate afterwards:Pushup 10, squat x1, pushup x9, squat x2, pushup x8, squat x3…….pushup x1, squat x10.

Have a great week.

Stay strong

Dave

Christmas fat loss – 5 tips to help you avoid adding the festive 5kg!

Christmas is just around the corner and that usually means festive weight gain for a lot of folks. With all the food available on the day as well as nights out, having friends round for present swaps, Christmas markets and all the other opportunities to indulge in a little ( or a lot of) packing your face with so many tasty things, how do you remain on track with your goals and enjoy yourself?

 

1. On Christmas day, with all that delicious and amazing food on offer, I have one piece of advice – Go for it. Seriously. Just go for it. Call it the cheat meal of the year and eat whatever the hell you want. It’s Christmas for crying out loud, enjoy it.

2. Christmas calories are still calories, so still be aware of what you are eating and try to load up on protein and veggies, all those roasted, mashed, and however else you have them will be calling your name and have them to round out your meal, not make up the bulk of it.

3. I forget where I saw this one, but the first bite rule is great. If you don’t nearly pass out with joy at the first bite of something at a buffet or snack table, don’t have more. Stick to the best, most tastiest foods and don’t just eat it because it’s there. Eat slowly, no one is gonna steal the food from your plate, enjoy it, savour it and take your time.

4. Remember you are an adult, eat like one. If you are gonna have snacks and chocolate and whatnot, make it the good stuff.

5. Remember,it’s Christmas day, not Christmas month! Sure there will be a couple of extra days of leftovers and festive lunches/ dinners/ nights out but remember to keep your goal in mind and don’t undo all the hard work you’ve done to this point.

6. If you heading for a night out, eat before you go. You will be less tempted to snack or grab something deep fried on the way home! Eating is definitely not cheating.

7. Everyone like a good beer or 3 and at this time of the year the opportunities to partake are more common than at most other times of the year. Remember that alcohol is usually calorific and it’s very easy to get a couple of extra thousand cals in over the course of a week or so that will really hamper your ability to maintain the progress you have made. As with point 3 above, keep to the good stuff, enjoy it and think quality over quantity.

 

Remember that this time of year isn’t the time for losing weight, it should be a time to relax a little and focus on maintaining the progress you have made and it can be a lot easier than you think.

Remember, quality over quantity.

 

Enjoy,

Dave

Movements over muscles

Let’s face it, eeeeverybody loves to throw in some bicep curls or some leg extensions at the end of a workout or 2 just for the hell of it and to get a little bit of a pump in the muscles, but that’s not what the basis of your workout should be.

Think about your daily life, when do you ever use a single muscle group in isolation? Very rarely if ever, so why train in isolation? (We’ll come to this in a second…) Everything you do is a combination of a variety of muscle groups working together to create the movement you want and training should in many ways reflect that.

There are 5 basic groups that all movements can be broken down into:

Push

Pull

Hip dominant/ “hinge” movements

Knee dominant/ squat movements

Loaded carries

Everything is either a pure version of one of these or a combination of 2.

Some direct work is good but to supplement your main training and help remove weaknesses from any of your bigger compound lifts such as deadlifts, squats etc. Like nutritional supplements, you should be only using them as needed, to supplement your training and not to replace the main training you do.

 Options options options

If you can’t do an exercise for any reason, space or equipment, then think about the movement you are training and here is a list (not comprehensive at all but it’ll help you out) of exercises that you can swap in as an alternative as needed. The best option at the top of the list, working down progressively easier alternative.

 

Hip Dominant

Deadlift options

Deadlift

Romanian deadlift

Kettlebell deadlift (allows you to keep your shoulders back and work through a full range of movement)

KB/DB Rdl

Front loaded Good morning

 

Hip thrust options

Single leg barbell hip thrust (shoulders elevated glute bridge)

Barbell hip thrust

Barbell glute bridge (shoulders on floor – smaller range of movement)

Single leg bodyweight hip thrust

Single leg bodyweight glute bridge

Glute bridge

 

Knee Dominant

Barbell back squat

Barbell front squat

Double kettelbell racked squat

Single KB racked squat

Goblet squat

Bodyweight squat

 

Horizontal Push

Bench press

Kettlebell bench press

Dumbbell press

Single arm DB/KB press (The KB options change the loading by putting the load outside of the line of force from your elbow to your wrist)

DB floor press

Feet elevated push up

Pushup

Incline pushup

 

Vertical Push

Strict barbell shoulder press (no or very little leg drive to assist)

High incline seated barbell shoulder press

Barbell push press

High incline seated DB/KB shoulder press

DB/KB shoulder press

Landmine press (Tall kneeling, half kneeling, standing in descending order of difficulty)

 

Horizontal Pull

Bentover barbell row

Bentover DB/KB row

Seated cable row

TRX row

 

Vertical Pull

Wide grip pull up

Close grip pull up

Neutral grip pull up

TRX pull up from knees (allows some assistance from the feet at the top end of the range of movement)

Pull down

 

Loaded carry

Overhead Carry

Single arm overhead carry

1 hand farmers carry

2 handed farmers carry

 

While this is not an exhaustive list, there are many more options and variations that could be added, it is enough to give you plenty of alternatives if needed!

Hope these help and if you have any questions , please ask.

Stay strong

Dave

You should calorie count. (at least for a while…)

Calorie counting sucks. It’s boring, can be time consuming and quite often inaccurate.

But I believe you should do it, for a little while anyway. And here are 5 reasons why:

1. Most people don’t know where their calories come from. Yes, smartass, they come from food, but most folks don’t appreciate how they can “eat healthy” and still gain weight. Weight gain is simply a matter of more cals in than out, the excess is stored as fat. The issue is that even with some of the “healthier” options out there contain a lot more calories than you would think and tracking allows you to highlight this.

Fruit juice smoothies are a prime example, bright, fruit (juice) filled, tasty, these have to be great for you, right? Well yes they are, kinda. But if your goal is fat loss, some of the options I’ve looked at work out at around 600kcals and 90-100g sugar. A bottle of coke on the other hand has around 40g of sugar. Without the fibre you would get if you eat the fruit instead of squeezing the juice out and discarding the rest, your body breaks it down and treats it the same as the sugar from the coke.

2. If you track your food intake, it will automatically make you think about what you are eating. If you do it consistently, it will also make you adjust your portion sizes. Eating well is great, over eating good, nutritious food is still taking in too many cals though and the outcome is the same.

3. It helps you find both good and bad habits in your nutrition habits. Too much sugar, not enough protein, not enough fibre or fat are typical issues I see in food logs, on their own, each has associated issues but as most people have at least 3 of these at one time and there are plenty issues to tackle. Tracking allows you to highlight these and begin adjusting accordingly.

On the positive side, tracking allows you to see what you are already doing well with and maintain it whilst fixing the other issues.

4. You don’t need to do it forever. Once you get a handle on correct portion control, gain some insight into where your calories are coming from and start building some better nutritional habits, you can cut down how often you track and use it as a check-in to monitor progress and adjust as necessary. I “check in” using myfitnesspal every 2 or 3 weeks, or if I feel I’m slipping a little.

5. It will allow you to find what ratio of macronutrients are good for you. Depending on body type, activity level, body composition and a host of other factors, your body reacts to different ratios of protein, carbs and fat more positively than others. Ectomorphs with very high activity levels can handle up to 50% carbs and a lower fat %, whilst a sedentary endomorph may only need 25% carbs and up to 35-40% fat intake. Tracking allows you to adjust your intake as needed.

If you are having trouble dropping or increasing your weight (I’m looking at you “hard gainers” here), try tracking for a short while and see how you could adjust your eating habits to get more success.

 

Stay healthy

Dave

Farmers carry finishers for fat loss

I love farmers carries. They are simple and effective. And they are great for fatloss and conditioning.

Farmers carries are pretty awesome for a number of reasons, you pick up 2 pieces of heavy and walk with them, either for distance or for time, and you put them down. Repeat as needed.

Go as heavy as you can but maintain good posture for as long as you can, you’re gonna fail on these, it’s inevitable, but try to maintain a good shoulders back and down position, tight abs, head up and eyes front position throughout, when this goes, stop.

Done properly these are gonna torch your abs, glutes, shoulders, and build a solid grip, not to mention pump your heart rate up through the roof!

Heres a couple of pointers for you and 2 variations for building your own finishers.

1. Go as heavy as you can with good posture

2. Yes your hands and forearms will feel as though they are on fire, suck it up, you’ll get stronger!

3. If you are going for distance, don’t go all the way to failure on the first attempt, you’ll regret it the rest of the way.

 

Option 1:

Farmers carry circuit 1

Exercise 1                                            Exercise 2

Goblet squat                                        Med ball slam

Reverse lunge                                      Bentover row (DBs or bar)

Push up                                                 Glute bridge

DB overhead press                              Push up plank

DB RDL                                                 Mountain Climber

Pick one exercise from column 1 and one from column 2, and use dumbbells or kbs that will challenge you for the farmers carry. Then you are gonna do 8-12 reps of ex 1, farmers carry for 20-30m, then 10-15 reps of ex 2. Rest 30-45 secs and repeat. Aim for 4-6 rounds.

Option 2:

Farmers carry circuit 2

Pick 3 successively harder exercises, and perform

20m farmers carry,

Ex1

20m farmers carry

Ex2

20m farmers carry

Ex3

20m farmers carry

Rest 60s, repeat for 2-4 rounds

Combinations i find that work well are:

1. DB overhead press (if you can press overhead well) – Goblet squat – Plank

2. KB swing – DB RDL  – Bentover row ( this one is heavy on the hamstrings)

3. Goblet squat – pushup – reverse cuunch

As you can see, the exercises get progressively easier as you get further into the circuit allowing for fatigue to limit your strength and not limit your ability to complete the circuit. Aim to do 8 to 12 reps on each exercise with your 12 rep max for each.

And if your heart rate isn’t through the roof at the end, you’re doing it wrong 😉

Have fun

 

Dave

Good workouts and great ones

A couple of weeks ago I went in to the gym for my deadlift session and wasn’t feeling the best but went through the warmup, some great tunes playing in my earphones, headed over to lift and worked through my warmup sets. I usually do some RDLs with the bar, pop a couple of 20s on the bar, then full deadlifts for 8-10 reps, some more weight,  a few more reps, gradually working my way up and everything felt a little heavier than normal but I kept going. My plan for the day was 5×2 starting at 200kg and working up as I felt. I was short on time so it was just gonna be deadlifts. First set came up easy, so the load went up for the next one, that was also feeling surprisingly good given the “heavy” feeling of the warmup sets. I felt so good by the third set that I continued adding weight to the bar and a couple of sets later, ended up with a new PR!

The next week, all full of confidence, I went into the same session and all the warmup reps felt easy! Possibly a new PR on the cards? Not so fast sunshine! As soon as I got to the working sets, everything felt crappy. Set 1 was rough but came up kinda sorta ok, a small increase for the next set and I stayed there for the next 3 sets and dropped back for my last double. This time it didn’t even leave the floor!  All at a weight 30+ kgs less than the PR the previous week! WTF??

what the hel

 

Now, I know this has happened to you. One week you’re scaling the Mount Olympus of new PRs and the next you’re struggling to walk through he gym without tripping over yourself!

Its where the idea of good and great (and sometimes really crappy) training sessions come in. Let’s say you train 4 times a week, take 3 weeks out of the year for holidays, work travel and life generally getting in the way, and that gives you 196 training sessions in a year. I reckon about 10-15% of these are gonna suck. I mean they are gonna be the real grind your way through type training sessions. The ones where you wonder why the hell you are wasting your precious time in the gym.

Then you’re going to get the 80% where you get in and get the job done. Alwyn Cosgrove calls these the “punch the clock” workouts. The ones where most of your work is done, progress is made, albeit gradual, but progress none the less. These are the important ones. Don’t miss these ones.

Then you have the rest, the last 5-10% of your sessions where you come out feeling like a superhero.

Just don’t expect these record setting sessions every time, it,’s awesome when they happen and they show how far you have come, but focus on the big picture and look for longterm progress. Celebrate the great sessions but don’t forget the 80% that allowed those big successes to happen.

 

Stay focussed

Dave

The best diet for you…

There are 87973 diet books on amazon.co.uk  all offering great, change your life results. I’m going to tell you which is the absolute, hands down, by far and away the best one for you…

But first, lets have a look at the options, not all of them obviously, but some of the ideas.

Theres the obvious ones such as low fat diets, simply cut out fat from your diet and voila! Weight loss.  Or you could cut out carbs and lose weight that way. You could juice your way skinny, or you could eat paleo and get caveman skinny… the options are pretty much all encompassing, but again we come back to which is best??

Simply…All of them. Kinda.

 

You see, most of the diet books out there offer 1 common trait, cut calories out of your day and over the course of the next couple of weeks lose some weight. Great. For about 2 weeks then it all goes pear shaped, as do you.

The issue I have with diets as typically thought of is twofold,

1. They generally aren’t maintainable for any more than a few weeks at most, then when your willpower runs out, you go back to eating “normally” and the weight piles back on as you haven’t learned any new nutritional habits.

2. The weight they help you lose through calorie deprivation is not just fat, you also lose a good amount of muscle mass, which sucks from both a strength loss standpoint and a metabolic standpoint. Muscle burns calories, lose muscle and you burn even less cals than now and gaining weight becomes even easier.

 

Good nutritional habits have a big effect and if done well then the areas of health, performance and body composition all improve and you excel in all areas, typically if you lose out on 1 of the 3, then the other 2 slip as well.

Diet books sell simply because people all want the magic bullet. The one key thing that the fitness community is conspiring to keep hidden and keep people buying into the system. Well I hate to be the one to break it to you all, but there is no secret, no magic bullet, no shortcut to long term success. Consistency, good habits, boring but sensible.

And therein lies the problem, everyone knows what good nutrition is, but it’s either not easy enough or theres no secret plan they can tell there friends about, “Yeah I’m following the weight loss mega flat butt 3000 diet plan, I feel terrible but I can get into those tiny skinny jeans now!”

Which brings us back to the billion dollar question, What is the best diet for you??

The answer is simply this, whatever you can do consistently and that gives you the appropriate  amount of  nutrients for your body.

Whether you find you need higher or lower carbs, higher or lower fat or somewhere in the middle for both, if you have a a little success, stick with it and adjust only as needed.

Stop searching for the magic bullet.

 

Stay healthy

 

Dave

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Sets and reps – getting the best out of them

Traditional thoughts on sets and reps says do 3 sets of 10 or 4 sets of 6 but there are more interesting ways to think about how to get the volume in your training that you need.

Typically you will see 3×10 or 4×8 for your sets and rep schemes, but there are occasions where you don’t hit the required number or the jump to the next load is too big, so what can you do?

I usually use rep ranges to allow for some growth and increased volume at one load before increasing the load and building a little more strength.

For example:

DB press 3 x 8-12 reps. Say you start at 20kg and can get 3 sets of 8 reps but thats about the limit. Great, you are in the range required but there is room for improvement. Next time you hit 10, 8, 8. A 2 rep improvement, the next week you go for 12, 10, 8, another 4 rep improvement (6 reps up on the first week). So on until you hit 3 sets of 12 and its time to up the load and the process repeats giving you gradual increases every week.

If the first 2 sets fly up easy, then you increase the load for the a=last set and see where you are with it, but if you don’t hit the minimum number in the first set then you need to drop the load a little and build up.

progress

The same idea works for strength sets where you are working for much lower reps but at higher loads. I really like 5 x 5 but sometimes, you won;t hit 5 full sets of 5 reps, but if you hit 5,4,4,3,3 on your working sets then next time you shoot for say, 5,5,5,4,4 and you have an increase in total volume and you’re that little bit stronger. Progress again.

 

The other way to think about your reps is by looking at total reps done, for example you have 3 sets of 12 to do, thats 36 total reps, but you may not be able to get 3 sets of 12 reps out at the required load. So break it down into smaller pieces, each no bigger than 12 but as small as needed to get the reps done. For example you may get 12, 12, 8, 4. That’s 36 total reps. Once you get to 3x 12 then up the load and go again.

There are rules with this one though,

1 – there has to be an upper limit on each set, usually around 12, 10 or 8 for your mid rep sets and total volume would be 30-40 reps typically

2 – the upper limit for strength should be 6 with a total volume of around 10 (5×2) to 25 (5×5)

3 – rest times need to be appropriate. sets should be as quick as possible with enough time for adequate rest. Strength sets need around 2-3 mins max and the rest should be around a minutes rest.

 

Any questions on this or any topic, just get in touch!

Stay strong

 

Dave

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